OAKLAND — It looked as though the pride of Petaluma would disappear into the postseason shadows. But with one out and one on in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jonny Gomes finally got his first at-bat of the American League division series.
It wasn't the chance to hit that Gomes was talking about afterward. It was the way the O.co Coliseum crowd reacted.
"The ovation I got was pretty special," said Gomes, the Casa Grande graduate. "There are some well-liked guys in this game, and the exact opposite, and to have a sellout crowd get up on their feet to give me a little love — because that's what I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for my family and I play for the fans. And I think I got three thumbs up throughout all three of those, so it's a successful season for me."
The question now is whether Gomes will return for another run in 2013. His manager and teammates praised his leadership all year. But Gomes is a pure right-handed power hitter. He doesn't hit for average, and he's nothing special in the field, a couple reasons he has played for four teams in 10 MLB seasons.
"I don't know," Gomes said when asked if he'll be back in Oakland. "This season's been magical for me. It's been a dream come true. But when you've been kicked in the teeth as much as I have in the offseason, you realize nothing is a guarantee. With that being said, would I like to? Absolutely. But I'm not a GM, nor am I an agent. I'm a baseball player. Once the lights are turned off, my job's done. We'll see."
LEYLAND LOST NO SLEEP
It would have been easy to expect the Tigers to feel deflated after their 3-2 loss in Game 4, a contest they dominated until the A's ninth-inning theatrics. At least one member of the team was resting easy that night, though.
"I know this sounds crazy, because we were all a little heartbroken," manager Jim Leyland said. "I wasn't as upset as everybody was (Wednesday) night, and I'll tell you why. We didn't walk them. We didn't hit a batter. We didn't make an error. We didn't throw the ball away. We didn't make a bad fundamental play. They beat us. They earned it."
Just as the Tigers earned their win in Game 5, and their American League ALDS victory.
This will be Leyland's third trip to a league championship series as a manager. He took the Florida Marlins to the NLCS in 1997, and the Tigers to the ALCS in 2006 (after dispatching the A's in the AL division series).
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR'S COMEBACK
Until Thursday's Game 5 loss, the A's and Giants had ridden on parallel tracks during their respective division series, winning or losing on the same days. Melvin hoped San Francisco's win in Cincinnati would help inspire his team against the Tigers. It didn't, but he still admired what the Giants did.
"Congratulations to them," Melvin said. "Having to go on the road to do three games in a row is doubly tough. ... It was quite the run to go into Cincinnati the way they were beat the first two games and then win three in a row."